THE YEAR 1858

SPAN OF A CENTURY
1828-1928

100 YEARS IN THE HISTORY OF CAMDEN AS A CITY

COMPILED FROM NOTES ANDS DATA COLLECTED BY
CHARLES S. BOYER

PRESIDENT CAMDEN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

PUBLISHED BY
CENTENNIAL ANNIVERSARY COMMITTEE
OF CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY

ADDITIONAL PHOTOS AND NOTES BY PHILLIP COHEN IN 2003

The Washington Grays were organized in 1858. When President Lincoln issued the first call for troops on April 15, 1861, 46 out of a muster roll of 50 immediately volunteered. Within four days this number was increased to one hundred and was mustered into service at Trenton as part of Company A, Fourth Regiment. 

The first attempt to publish a daily newspaper in Camden was made on January 4, 1858. On  that date the first issue of the Camden Daily appeared. Philip J. Gray was the publisher. The name of the paper was soon changed the Camden Evening Daily, but on May 6, 1858 the paper was discontinued for lack of patronage. According to the paper the total city indebtedness in 1858 was $52,200 which included $5,600 of bonds issued by the Board of Education.

The Esterbrook Steel Pen Factory, the first of its kind in America, was established at the foot of Cooper Street in 1858 by Richard Esterbrook. Two or three attempts had been made before this time to manufacture pens in the United States, but they had proven failures. There were no men in this country learned in the open trade, and no suitable machinery, so it was necessary to design and build all machines. Only fifteen people were on the first payroll, but the growth of the company was a steady one. Buildings were added over the years, and in 1912 a five-story concrete building was erected, nearly doubling the size of the plant. Automatic machines replaced hand made pens, greatly increasing output. The original Esterbrook factory was built right over the old Camden Water Works and for many years the scrap was dumped into the reservoir. A part of the original stand pipe was kept and as of 1928 was carefully guarded by the Esterbrook Company. Where the 1905 building was joined to the older brick building was the original Ferry Dock, and the company had great difficulty in getting the piles for the new building down through the logs that were used as a foundation for the Ferry Slip. It is hard to visualize that the site where Locke's old factory was, later owned by the Victor Talking Machine Company,  was open water  and that the Pen Company kept its boats anchored there. The output of the Esterbrook Factory grew from the small beginning to a production of over 216,000,000 pens a year by 1928. These were shipped then to every country in the world. As of 1928, none of the original group of men connected with Esterbrook Pen was still living, but an  employee named Charles Bowden was approaching his 60th anniversary with the company. 

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